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  • IOC Suspends Russian NOC, Allows for Neutral Athlete Participation


    12/05/17

    (ATR) Russian athletes will compete at the PyeongChang Olympics, but only under strict terms set by the IOC.

    Russian athletes won't hear their national anthem during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics. (Kremlin.ru)
    The IOC Executive Committee suspended the Russian Olympic Committee as part of a wide range of sanctions against the country’s “systemic manipulation of the anti-doping system in Russia.” Also, the IOC put forth a set of conditions for Russian athletes to compete at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics as neutral athletes.

    Russia must also reimburse the IOC for the cost of the two commissions investigating the manipulations and help pay for the establishment of the Independent Testing Authority in PyeongChang. The figure quoted by the IOC in a release is $15 million.

    The sanctions include a provision that says it "may partially or fully lift the suspension of the ROC from the commencement of the Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018." That would allow Russian athletes to possibly march under their own flag for the Games' closing "provided these decisions are fully respected and implemented by the ROC and by the invited athletes and officials."

    IOC President Thomas Bach said the evidence presented by former Swiss President Samuel Schmid represented “an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games.”

    Bach said that the decisions were taken following due process for Russian athletes and officials, something that was not available ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics.

    IOC president Thomas Bach announces the decision in Lausanne. (ATR)
    "Mr. Schmid in his report has clearly outlined the different levels of responsibility for this systemic manipulation," Bach said to a question posed by Around the Rings. "The IOC then has issued the proportionate sanctions for this different level of responsibility for this failure and this manipulation of the system ."

    In Rio, Russia was allowed to field a team that was one-third the normal size, with the IAAF barring all but one Russian from competing. Athletes in other Summer Olympic sports could compete only if certified by their respective international federations.

    “We have applied now the proportionate sanctions after having had the opportunity to follow due process and to have all the allegations and evidence by different means by Mr. Schmid,” Bach said in his closing press conference.

    “Legally speaking this decision is a different one [than ahead of Rio]. Here [the IOC] decides whom we want to invite. This is not about an exclusion or about sanctions, this is about the discretion the IOC has with regard to the invitation of clean athletes.”

    Bach and investigative chairman Samuel Schmid (ATR)
    PyeongChang organizers said in a statement they “accept and respect” the IOC’s decision. 

    “We will work with the IOC and all other relevant stakeholders accordingly to ensure that all the athletes and officials attending the Games as part of this team are given the best experience possible,” PyeongChang 2018 said.

    Athletes who have been cleared by the IOC to compete will do so in an “Olympic Athletes of Russia” designated team with the acronym OAR. These athletes will compete in a neutral uniform not bearing the Russian Flag and should they win any medals the Olympic Flag will fly at all ceremonies and in the Olympic Village. 

    In addition, the IOC suspended the membership of Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko and his deputy minister Yuri Nagornykh are banned from all future editions of the Olympics. Sochi 2014 President Dmitry Chernyshenko has been removed from the 2022 IOC Coordination Commission. 

    Hajo Seppelt, German journalist credited with uncovering the doping scandal with whistleblowers, surrounded by cameras and even a bodyguard after the press conference. (ATR)
    Last year a whistleblower exposed an intricate method used to tamper with drug testing samples at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. A review of the results from Russian athletes in the past few months has led to the disqualification of more than two dozen Russians from Sochi. The sanctions have knocked Russia down to fourth place in the medals table after finishing first in 2014 with 33 medals. Russia won just 10 medals in the preceding 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

    Speaking at the press conference announcing the ruling of the IOC Executive was Samuel Schmid, the Swiss politician who led the IOC inquiry into whether anti-doping subterfuge was carried out with the backing of the Russian government.

    “The commission worked for more than 17 months and collected a lot of evidence proof documents, obtained technical expertise and heard a large number of witnesses. All those involved in these procedures were granted the right to be heard,” Schmid said of his findings.

    “With regard to the facts the disciplinary commission concluded that there was a system manipulation in Russia of the anti-doping rules and of the anti-doping system. The manipulation of the anti-doping rules and regulation and of this system were prevalent during the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi 2014. From the legal point of view the commission concluded that the systemic manipulation was confirmed. There were different levels of administrative and contractual responsibilities.”

    Schmid would not speculate to journalists about whether Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin directed the manipulation scheme. He said that the commission relied only on facts from the McLaren Report it could corroborate independently. Those facts led to the conclusion that both the Russian NOC and the Russian Sports Ministry bore responsibilities for strategic manipulation.

    Samuel Schmid details his investigation into the Russian doping schemes. (IOC)
    “We’ve never seen such manipulation and cheating and this has caused unprecedented damage to Olympism and sports,” Schmid said. “We found that one cannot simply deny things or say we didn’t know anything. There were responsibilities that were undertaken with regard to the staging of the Games. Every failure had consequences. These incidents have been examined and included in the report. Every single case was examined.”

    When asked if he was worried the IOC Executive Board’s decision could lead to a boycott by the independent Russian athletes, Bach said “an Olympic boycott has never achieved anything”.

    Russian news agency TASS quickly reported after the decision that the All-Russia State Broadcaster (VGTRK) would not broadcast the PyeongChang Games without a Russian team. Russian English-language broadcaster Russia Today provided live coverage of the IOC decision and reaction from Russia. 

    Reaction to the ban outside of Russia was largely positive. Contrasting the Russian state broadcaster's position, U.S. broadcaster NBC issued a statement in support for sanctions taken by the IOC. Many current and former athletes also released statements commending the IOC’s choice.

    “Competing in the Olympics is a privilege reserved for those who play fair,” Susan Dunklee, a U.S. biathlete said on Twitter. “IOC finally agrees and bans Russia.”

    Six-time Olympian and IOC Athlete’s Commission member Hayley Wickenheiser said in a statement “there are no winners in today’s decision”.

    “[Work done] has allowed for tough sanctions towards some athletes that sends a message,” Wickenheiser said. “It is now all our collective responsibility that it never happens again and ensure we are on the right side of history.”

    Jim Walden, the attorney for Grigory Rodchenkov, said that his client “personally believes” in the sanctions taken and the IOC “sent a powerful message” that this type of system would not be tolerated in international sport. Rodchenkov’s testimony was a key piece of evidence in both the Schmid and Oswald Commissions.

    “Grigory is a realist; he loves his country very much and hopes that they would do something that was atypical for the government which was accept responsibility,” Walden said to Around the Rings.

    Written and reported in Lausanne by Ed Hula. Additional reporting in Atlanta done by Aaron Bauer and Kevin Nutley

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